As with any exercise, when you first start running, building habit is important. Your initial focus should be getting into the habit of running and making a run part of each weekly plan. Finding times and places that are convenient will help. If you have a shower area in your place of work, it might be good to start your day with a run before work. Maybe you have more free time in the evening when the children are in bed. Decide whatever works for you and follow it. Finding a time and place that is convenient and makes you feel comfortable running will make you keep to it long-term.
Once the habit builds and you become a more seasoned runner, your next aim is to get fitter and faster. A simple way of doing this is to add time to your run and cover longer distances. Alternatively, you can add other workouts to your routine. Interval training or time or distance at a particular pace will help you develop your endurance, speed as well as stronger legs and lungs.
However, the biggest benefit of adding these extra habits is that they prevent your running exercises from becoming boring.
We have all been there. You have good intentions of maintaining something new and positive but if you go out for a half-hour run every day or so, it can be very boring. When structured exercises were added to the mix, time goes by quicker when running. They help keep your mind focussed and you can feel your body going for it.
1. Short Running Intervals
This works well on running tracks but you may also use a football pitch with turns and mark points. Walk or jog for 5 minutes to warm up, then run a straight 100 – 200 meters. When it’s time to turn, walk it. Head to the other side of the track or pitch before you run back again. You can leave your water and have it at the end of each loop if you wish.
Get into a good rhythm and enjoy the running part. Stay comfortable and don’t feel the need to sprint. As your fitness improves you can start to pick up speed, over time. If you don’t have access to a track or pitch, use other markers. It could be running to a set of traffic lights. From there, catch your breath by walking to a stop sign or a building and so on. We recommend doing 3 – 4 reps of this when beginning.
This exercise will get you into a good mindset for picking up pace and running faster for shorter periods of time. By keeping the straight run sections short, the hard work seems more doable. Then after each break where you walk, you recover enough to hit the next section of hard effort.
2. Running Speed Shifter
For this one, you shift between your easy, medium and fast paces. So what are your slow, medium or fast paces? Below is a short guide on how to judge each gear.
- Easy Running Speed
During this pace, you are comfortable holding a conversation with your running buddy. You know if you had to, you could go at this pace for as long as you needed to.
- Medium Running Speed
You are going faster but not almost reaching your limit. You can still hold a short conversation if you had to but would prefer to only give short answers.
- Fast Running Speed
You are running fast, not to the point of going out of breath but you can maintain this for a short while. At this speed, you would only have a one or two-word answer to any question and that’s it. You are not pushing yourself to the point of pain, just an exerted effort.
- Walk or jog for 5 minutes to warm up. From here, switch to your easy running speed as outlined above. Hold this pace for 3 minutes.
- Now switch to your medium pace for 1 minute.
- Then into your fast pace for 30 seconds.
- Do this 3 times and walk for 5 minutes afterwards to cool down.
What’s really good about this exercise is that it elevates your heart rate, boosts fitness and increases calories burned. The added bonus is it prevents you from doing the same easy runs over and over and introduces different muscle uses to the mix. This helps you stay injury-free by avoiding overuse injuries such as iliotibial band syndrome or runners knee. Furthermore, when you know your running pace, you are better ready to base your effort on the distance or purpose of the run. By getting familiar with the different paces and how they feel, you will get more benefits out of your training sessions going forward.
Related: Benefits of Joining a Running Club
3. Maintain a Level Running Speed
As you may guess from the name, this exercise is all about maintaining the same speed over distance for each lap.
Walk or jog for 5 minutes to warm up, then run 3 x 400-meter laps of your track, pitch or general area you use. For each lap, try to maintain the same pace with a 5-second faster or slower buffer on each subsequent lap.
While building endurance, this exercise also gets you in the mindset of maintaining a consistent effort, which is ideal when racing. Runners of all levels, from 5k to marathoners and beyond, often start a race too fast and burn out before the end. This can lead to a significant overall reduction in speed or even force someone to quit a race. By knowing the distance ahead of you and learning to start slower, you will get into a rhythm that you can maintain for longer distances.
4. Long Run
A lot of people naturally start to enjoy longer runs as they become fitter and progress with running. At first, you may need to take short walking breaks at regular intervals into your long run in order to maintain it. Push yourself to run a little longer at a pace at which you can easily hold a conversation. Slow down if you need to. Of course, if you feel you can run faster at this point also, feel free to do so.
This exercise will build your endurance and reduce the risk of injury or becoming discouraged by the extra distance. By taking the walk breaks you will not become tired too quickly.
5. Personal Running Adventure
After a while, you will undoubtedly have covered the same route many times. Even if you run with great company, the same route can be a little boring. One of my favourite things to do as I progressed with running was run to do things or go to places that I would usually drive. So for example, if I had to drop a key to someone, I would use the opportunity to take a cross-city trip on foot and back. Similarly, I would often leave a change of clothes at work and run home in the evening and back again in the morning. Some days you may even do it both ways.
The great thing about this one is that it builds endurance and feels very much like an adventure you are setting out on. Friends and colleagues questioning your reasoning often adds to this excitement. It will also give you a new perspective. Those small hills are maybe not as small in real life as when you are in your car!
Got any tips you’d like to share with us? Please comment below or see our socials. We welcome newcomers all year round so check out our membership page for more. Happy running!